The first of three Kent derbies over the festive period is on the horizon for Dartford as they host Tonbridge Angels on the weekend.
Alan Dowson has a near impeccable record when it comes to local league fixtures. After recent positive results and the introduction of three new faces, the Darts look like they have renewed energy. Tonbridge Angels are a point ahead and two places above Dartford. Under Jay Saunders they have put a decent run together since visiting Princes Park almost three months ago.
When Paul Rooney scored the only goal of the game in September it left the Angels down in twentieth. Now this weekend’s opponents are sitting in tenth and like the Darts aiming for a playoff position. The 1-0 victory was Dowson’s ninth Kent derby win in the National South since joining the club. The only dropped points came in the draw at Welling United last season.
The one thing Dartford have been this season is consistent in their inconsistency. Alan Dowson has attempted to address this issue with the signings of Ryan Sandford in goal, Richard Chin and George Alexander. The trio have breathed life into the side, when speaking to Pure DFC the Dartford boss said: “The three new signings we’ve made have been a massive benchmark. Our keeper has been outstanding, Chin has, and I think George has. So, the three new signings we’ve made have made a massive difference to the way we play”.
To conclude November, the Darts deservedly beat Torquay United 3-0 at home. Chin’s return went perfectly well, his curling shot found the top corner. Alexander then scored on debut with a delightful turn and shot. Finally, Moussa Diarra scored his first for the club as well. The Darts added another win with a much-changed side in the Kent Senior Cup beating Bromley 5-1.
A first clean sheet for Sandford was followed up by a Player of the Match performance against league leaders Yeovil Town last weekend. After the opening ten minutes it felt like it could be a long afternoon for the Darts. The Glovers took the lead from the spot through Rhys Murphy but could have already scored a few times. Somehow Dartford went in at the break level, former Tonbridge Angel midfielder Luke Allen set up Alexander for his second in as many games. Dowson agreed with Sandford’s reward for an excellent display, he commented after the match: “Ryan’s got man of the match for a reason because he saved our blushes in the first half. We could have come in 4-1, 5-1, 6-1 down”.
In the second half the hosts improved. Chin netted in consecutive matches to give the Darts a shock lead with twenty minutes remaining. However, the Glovers showed why they are topping the table when Jordan Young equalised to leave the score all square. Despite a difficult start to the game, the Dartford boss was pleased with the response after the break. He praised his side’s battling qualities and work rate, adding: “Second half we were miles better and I thought we looked quite comfortable”.
The Darts will see striker Harvey Bradbury available against Tonbridge Angels. Dowson believes his return from suspension will provide better options, he stated: “We got Harvey coming back in, we need his pace and power. It gives us more options and that is what we need around the pitch”. Although the Darts manager would like to see the defence tighten up more, he feels the last few performances have been positive, he said: “If we show the same attitude and the same desire, we’re scoring a lot of goals at the minute, just cut out conceding and we will be fine”.
Out of the current clubs in the division, Dartford have probably had the most joy against Tonbridge Angels. Just one defeat in the last seventeen competitive meetings, the Darts have won the last four and kept three consecutive clean sheets. The Angels have picked up a solitary point in the league against Dartford out of the last 21 available. Their only victory in this fixture since March 2009 brought the end to Dartford’s joint manager experiment. Shortly after the 3-2 loss at Longmead four years ago, Adam Flanagan and Jamie Coyle left the club.
Since that defeat, the Darts have visited Longmead twice reversing the scoreline in January 2022. Danny Leonard scored a brace before Tommy Wood halved the deficit. Dartford restored the two goal cushion when Jack Jebb scored a free-kick. With the game almost over Ibrahim Olutade netted a consolation. The last trip to TN10 came in April this year and the visitors came out on top again. A long ball from goalkeeper Ben Dudzinski found its way to Malachai Napa who grabbed the only goal of the game.
Tonbridge Angels ended up in ninth last season, their highest position since the seventies. This campaign they are on target to challenge that finish. Yet they were languishing just above the relegation zone after the reverse fixture at Princes Park. Since September, the Angels have only tasted defeat twice in the National South. Saunders has guided the Kent club to five wins and five draws in that time.
One of those losses came in their last league outing bringing an end to a seven-match unbeaten run in the National South. A 2-1 defeat down in Devon against Torquay United leaves Tonbridge Angels, a point ahead of Dartford and a win from a top seven place. In their last home game, they beat Havant and Waterlooville 4-1 with former Dart, Jordan Greenidge scoring his sixth of the season. The striker had a prolific spell with the Darts scoring six goals in just eight appearances. Jernade Meade is another ex-player who could be up against he Darts. The full-back played 40 times for Dartford scoring one goal.
Current League Form
|Tonbridge Angels (DWWDWL)
|Havant & Waterlooville
|St Albans City
|Hampton & Richmond
Head to Head
Dartford wins: 73 / Tonbridge Angels wins: 38 / Draws: 25
Dartford 1 – 0 Tonbridge Angels (23/09/2023 – National South)
Tonbridge Angels 0 – 1 Dartford (15/04/2023 – National South)
Dartford 2 – 0 Tonbridge Angels (15/10/2022 – National South)
Tonbridge Angels 2 – 3 Dartford (29/01/2022 – National South)
Dartford 1 – 1 Tonbridge Angels (11/09/2021 – National South)
Dartford 1 – 0 Tonbridge Angels (05/01/2021 – National South
- Dartford have won ten of their last 12 league games against Tonbridge Angels (D1, L1)
- In all competitions, the Darts have lost just once against the Angels in the last 17 matches (W14, D2)
- Dartford have won six of the last seven at Longmead in all competitions (D0, L1)
- The Darts have kept clean sheets versus Tonbridge Angels in each of the last three games
On This Day
Dartford held National League side Boreham Wood to a 1-1 draw six years ago. Ricky Shakes gave the Wood the lead at Princes Park. Tom Murphy levelled for the Darts in the F.A Trophy tie. The hosts played the final quarter with ten men after Alex Brown was sent off, but held out for a replay.
The Darts drew in their fifth ever match at Princes Park back in 2006. Richard Avery and Ryan Hayes were on the scoresheet in the 2-2 stalemate with Metropolitan Police. Dartford’s last away game on this day was back in 1995 when they won 5-0 at Tunbridge Wells in the Kent League.